Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga apologized on Wednesday for his controversial request in administration to ask drinks wholesalers to stop supplying liquor to pubs that defied related anti-COVID-19 measures, local media reported Wednesday.
"The request has already been withdrawn. I would like to apologize for causing so much trouble to so many people," Suga said, a day after the government retracted last week's request that wholesalers stop offering establishments in areas under the COVID-19 emergency state that have continued serving alcohol.
Eateries and bars are banned from selling alcohol and are ordered to close by 8:00 p.m. local time, under the COVID-19 state of emergency currently covering the capital area and Okinawa in southern Japan through Aug. 22.
Some dining establishments have rejected the restrictions as the government's slow payment of "cooperation money" for businesses that comply.
Suga said that he had not taken part in the discussion on the matter when asked whether he was told previously the details of the request.
It was crucial to take measures such as giving stimulate subsidies to pubs and restaurants to encourage them to stop alcohol serving in the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, he added.
The plan had received objections from restaurants struck heavily by the pandemic and unwilling wholesalers, who resisted pressure from the government to cut off supplies.
Meanwhile, opposition parties said cabinet members would be grilled in the Diet on Wednesday.
Criticism had also come from within the ruling coalition, when Yasutoshi Nishimura, the minister in charge of the COVID-19 response, drew back another plan this week earlier, which called on financial institutions to request businesses to observe COVID-19 restrictions. This resulted in voices of asking Nishimura to step down.
Suga refused to comment on the status of Nishimura, who suggested the controversial plans last week, only saying that it is important that the minister "explain (government anti-virus policies) in detail."